Greetings! Maria Watson here, facing a daunting task of putting words to my hopes and anticipations for my Backpack Journalism experience.
I recently (two days ago) graduated from the beautifully Jesuit Nebraskan paradise, Creighton University. Is there a more appropriate way to celebrate my newly acquired “adult” status than to have one last earth-shattering Creighton-led immersion?
For those of you unfamiliar, Catholic Jesuit philosophy serves as the backbone of the Creighton experience, challenging students to love more, serve others for the greater glory of God, care truly for each human we encounter, and believe in the power and beauty of community, faith, and justice. It pushes us to think about life through lenses of empathy, critical thought, and hopefulness.
With that in mind, it’s all too natural that the Journalism and Theology departments here at Creighton partner to host a “Backpack Journalism” program that travels the world searching for stories that have the ability to shed new light on faith and justice issues in the greater community outside of our own Creighton bubble. Students and faculty/staff members work together to create a documentary striving to capture the essence of culture witnessed and stories told during the experience.
This year, I’m honored to be a part of this adventure, and in only five days, twelve students and four faculty/staff members will be packing up two twelve-passenger vans to make the 20+ hour trek to Nogales, Arizona and Nogales, Mexico. We will be spending the following two weeks exploring stories of migration from both sides of the Mexican-American border.
So why did I choose to embark on this pilgrimage, you may ask?
With a deeply rooted love and appreciation for both Jesuit tradition and journalism, I have dreamt of being a part of the Backpack Journalism experience since I was a freshman at Creighton. I was ecstatic when I learned that the project this year would center around border culture because it’s an increasingly relevant issue in today’s world. I absolutely love the idea of being a voice for the voiceless to shed a bit of light on the migrant situation in the midst of such controversy and political tension — hopefully fostering at least a little bit of hope along the way.
While I have heard from many that I will walk away from Nogales with a broken heart for the people suffering from the injustices of the system, I have faith that we will find some strength in learning about the selfless individuals that live and serve on the border as their vocation at the Kino Border Initiative. I’m not sure exactly what we’re getting ourselves into here, but I do know that Arizona sunsets and sunrises are the stuff of legends, and no matter what happens, seeing the cycles of the Arizona sun for two weeks will remind me that life continues to be inherently beautiful and that no matter how hard it gets, there is always something to be looking forward to in the coming day.
Over the course of the next 5 weeks, all of us participants will be writing here to keep you updated on our progress and stories as we dive into the border culture of Nogales. Please, keep us in your prayers for safe travels, strength, and open minds and hearts for what God has in store for us.